carcinogenic foods

Beware of dangers lurking in your barbecue foods

If you’re currently living the Body Ecology Way, then you’ve hopefully been eating probiotic-rich foods. You know these foods act as powerful cleansing aids and help greatly improve digestion. But perhaps you’re not aware that if you’re grilling out this summer, cultured foods are an essential side dish to have on your plate.

culture starter

Don’t have the first clue about how to ferment? Use our Veggie Culture Starter to make it easy.

To buffer the effects of carcinogenic foods: Marinate your meats before you toss them on the grill and always serve them with fermented vegetables.

Barbecued (and fried) foods are high in HCAs

Heterocyclic amines (HCA) are highly carcinogenic chemicals formed in animal products during cooking.1

You can limit your intake of carcinogenic foods and actually reduce the formation of dangerous and potentially cancer-causing HCAs during cooking via two ways.


  • Marinate your meat, fish, chicken, etc., with lemon juice, onion, garlic, black pepper, and — believe it or not — dark lager beer (German beer).2


  • Eat fermented vegetables any time you barbecue.
  • You’ll be very pleased to know that cruciferous vegetables contain a chemical compound that helps the body detoxify and rid itself of HCAs.3
  • This very special compound is called sulforaphane.

Sulforaphane has been shown to help control type 2 diabetes, help stop or slow osteoarthritis, and even help protect the brain from depression.4-6 Research indicates that sulforaphane may help prevent breast, prostate, and colon cancers and may actually trigger a cellular response called “apoptosis,” or cellular suicide.7,8

As if that isn’t enough, sulforaphane also helps control H. pylori.9 Usually a commensal bacteria that naturally live in the stomach, H. pylori can become pathogenic and cause serious problems, including the potential for stomach cancer. Research even suggests that sulforaphane may help people suffering from COPD.10

You can buy sulforaphane as a supplement. But it’s obviously more delicious to eat foods that provide it.

Sulforaphane can be found in cruciferous vegetables. Broccoli has the most. But broccoli seeds are an even richer source.

Unfortunately, cooking the cruciferous vegetable destroys an important enzyme called myrosinase, a precursor for the production of sulforaphane. In other words, when cooked the cruciferous vegetables lose this anti-cancerous property. So, what’s the ideal solution?


We’ve got a course for that. Click here to become a fermented foodie.

Fermented vegetables top the list of HCA-fighting foods

Broccoli, cabbage, kale, and other members of the cruciferous family are actually hard to digest when eaten raw and may also suppress the thyroid. Fermenting not only pre-digests the vegetables. It enhances the sulforaphane content. Fermenting also helps make the many other vitamins and minerals in the vegetables hundreds of times more bioavailable.11

Bottom line: Both barbecued meats and fried items (like fried chicken and French fries) are carcinogenic foods that contain dangerous HCAs.

If you want to live a longer, happier life, it’s best to eliminate all carcinogenic foods from your diet. But if you love barbecuing, do it from time to time, but marinate your meats before you toss them on the grill and always serve them with fermented vegetables.

Another great tip: Besides the fermented vegetables, serve a leafy green salad made with raw, cruciferous vegetables, like radishes, watercress, and arugula. Cooked turnip greens, collard greens, and kale are other dark, green, sulforaphane-rich cruciferous vegetables that we love to see served on every Body Ecology menu.


  1. 1. Zheng W, Lee SA. Well-done meat intake, heterocyclic amine exposure, and cancer risk. Nutr Cancer. 2009;61(4):437-446. doi:10.1080/01635580802710741.
  2. 2. Oz, Fatih & Kaya, Mükerrem. (2011). The inhibitory effect of black pepper on formation of heterocyclic aromatic amines in high-fat meatball. Food Control. 22. 596-600. 10.1016/j.foodcont.2010.10.010.
  3. 3. Shishu, Kaur IP. Inhibition of mutagenicity of food-derived heterocyclic amines by sulforaphane–a constituent of broccoli. Indian J Exp Biol. 2003 Mar;41(3):216-9. PMID: 15267150.
  4. 4. Annika S. Axelsson, Emily Tubbs, Brig Mecham, Shaji Chacko, Hannah A. Nenonen, Yunzhao Tang, Jed W. Fahey, Jonathan M. J. Derry, Claes B. Wollheim, Nils Wierup, Morey W. Haymond, Stephen H. Friend, Hindrik Mulder and Anders H. Rosengren. Sulforaphane reduces hepatic glucose production and improves glucose control in patients with type 2 diabetes. Science Translational Medicine, June 2017: Vol. 9, Issue 394, eaah4477 DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.aah4477.
  5. 5. Rose K Davidson, Orla Jupp, Rachel de Ferrars, Colin D Kay, Kirsty L Culley, Rosemary Norton, Clare Driscoll, Tonia L Vincent, Simon T Donell, Yongping Bao, Ian M Clark. Sulforaphane represses matrix-degrading proteases and protects cartilage from destruction in vitro and in vivo. Arthritis & Rheumatism, 2013; DOI: 10.1002/art.38133.
  6. 6. Martín-de-Saavedra, M. D., Budni, J., Cunha, M. P., Gómez-Rangel, V., Lorrio, S., Del Barrio, L., …López, M. G. (2013). Nrf2 participates in depressive disorders through an anti-inflammatory mechanism. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 38(10), 2010–2022.
  7. 7. John D. Clarke, Anna Hsu, Zhen Yu, Roderick H. Dashwood, Emily Ho. Differential effects of sulforaphane on histone deacetylases, cell cycle arrest and apoptosis in normal prostate cells versus hyperplastic and cancerous prostate cells. Molecular Nutrition & Food Research, 2011; DOI: 10.1002/mnfr.201000547.
  8. 8. Jiang X, Liu Y, Ma L, et al. Chemopreventive activity of sulforaphane. Drug Des Devel Ther. 2018;12:2905-2913. Published 2018 Sep 11. doi:10.2147/DDDT.S100534.
  9. 9. Akinori Yanaka, Jed W. Fahey, Atsushi Fukumoto, Mari Nakayama, Souta Inoue, Songhua Zhang, Masafumi Tauchi, Hideo Suzuki, Ichinosuke Hyodo, and Masayuki Yamamoto. Dietary Sulforaphane-Rich Broccoli Sprouts Reduce Colonization and Attenuate Gastritis in Helicobacter pylori-Infected Mice and Humans. Cancer Prevention Research, 2009; 2 (4): 353 DOI: 10.1158/1940-6207.CAPR-08-0192.
  10. 10. C. J. Harvey, R. K. Thimmulappa, S. Sethi, X. Kong, L. Yarmus, R. H. Brown, D. Feller-Kopman, R. Wise, S. Biswal. Targeting Nrf2 Signaling Improves Bacterial Clearance by Alveolar Macrophages in Patients with COPD and in a Mouse Model. Science Translational Medicine, 2011; 3 (78): 78ra32 DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3002042.
  11. 11. Scheers, N., Rossander-Hulthen, L., Torsdottir, I., & Sandberg, A. S. (2016). Increased iron bioavailability from lactic-fermented vegetables is likely an effect of promoting the formation of ferric iron (Fe 3+). ​European journal of nutrition,​ 55(1), 373-382.

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